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BECOMING • by A P Charman

When Josie was thirteen, she grew a halo. It appeared in a Religious Education class, which in retrospect Josie considered nothing more than bad luck. Their teacher, Miss Carson, was insecure and quick-tempered and was always going to react badly to a genuine miracle.

She didn’t feel anything. The first Josie knew, several kids were giggling and looking round in surprise, and she even started chuckling ready to join in the joke until she saw they were laughing at her. Miss Carson went red in the face and told her to take it off and Josie’s confusion turned into distress. She hadn’t done anything, so it was hard to understand why her teacher was offended, why everyone was so amused and why her friends were pointing at her.

Enraged, Miss Carson took her firmly by the arm, hauled her into the toilets, stood her in front of the mirror and pointed at the bright light.

“What is that?” she demanded.

Emanating from an arc about two inches above her scalp a range of fine, brilliant lights, increasing in length from the shortest by her ears to the tallest over the crown of her head were glowing and shimmering. They shone and twinkled with a smooth pace and beautiful ease.

“Well?”

Josie turned her head a little sideways and looked at it from an angle.

“It’s a halo, Miss,” she answered.

A fair reply given that’s exactly what it was, but not the response that was going to placate an incompetent and alarmed figure of authority like Miss Carson.

“I’ll give you halo,” she declared, “Principal’s office!”

And she marched Josie to the Principal’s office with a severity that even a thirteen-year-old could tell was inappropriate.

The Principal, Dr Nabir, was a scientific man and, having dismissed Miss Carson as quickly as respect would allow, he sat down to study Josie’s head. He examined her scalp, passed different materials through the lights and asked Josie a series of unconnected questions. One of those questions stuck in her mind for many years. Had she eaten anything strange recently? As if a marginal prawn cocktail could cause the spontaneous appearance of lights above the head. After a time he asked her what she thought it was, so she told him.

“It’s a halo.”

Nabir phoned everyone; her parents, the local university and the emergency services. From that point on, Josie had little time to consider the halo itself. Events tumbled over each other, gathering pace. The halo itself ceased to be a problem — the problem was always people’s reactions to the halo.

First, and most insurmountably, came her parents. Her mother saw the halo as an affliction; an ostentatious and unwelcome sign that her daughter was in some manner ‘different’. She was horrified and kept asking, “What have they done to you, baby?”, implying Josie was the victim of a well-intentioned but misguided teaching initiative. When, eventually, her mother realised that no-one was to blame, and that Josie was actually proud of it, her horror turned to quiet resentment. She blamed the halo for creating a distance between herself and her daughter, but that distance was never to close.

Her father’s reaction was equally awkward but in many ways just as foreseeable. To counteract his wife’s initial hysteria he treated it as a joke, smirking and bobbing his eyebrows up and down as if to express, “What larks, eh?”. But eventually the halo undermined his rigid understanding of how the world worked and he sank into a depression.

As for everyone else; they became more predictable as time went on. Scientists could not stop producing theories about it, theologians took up extremes of opinion and argued about it and documentary makers got her face on the cover of Time magazine with ever-more original angles on it.

Josie watched the whole manic parade, bemused. Fame got her invited to events around the world and sometimes she would find herself in a hotel room unsure which city she was in. She would sit at the dressing table mirror, watch the lights playing above her head and realise they were the only things that made any sense. She was asked by a journalist in Arkansas whether she was a virgin. A discharged mental patient in the Philippines shot at her with a handgun, but missed. She was applauded, vilified, feted and dismissed. Everyone offered a definition; most people an explanation. Almost no one agree with Josie.

“It’s just a halo,” she would say.

“This phenomenon of lights.”

“No, it’s a halo.”

“Your aura.”

“Halo.”

Then, at the age of 23 she realised she’d made enough money from interviews and product endorsements. She stopped attending the premieres, product launches and film festivals. With no money to be made from her, people quickly disappeared. When the partying ended, one sweet man remained. She married him. They made a home.

And one summer’s day she found herself sitting on a hillside, watching clouds overhead constantly becoming. When she was leaving, she looked down and noticed that the halo didn’t cast a shadow. In ten years, she’d never noticed something so simple. She was caught by that moment, and she marvelled at its existence and everything it had brought her. “What a miracle,” she thought.

And then, for the first time, she saw the world around herself in the same way she saw the halo.

“What a miracle that there is anything at all!”

And in that moment, she understood. Not just the halo, but everything. And the world in front of her seemed to shine, to twinkle like a moonlit lake, and a feeling bloomed through her body like an ecstasy of existence. With tears of joy on her cheeks, she said it again,

“What a miracle — that there is anything at all.”

Later, when she reached home, she found her husband in the kitchen, tasting a newly uncorked wine. He smiled, but he was puzzled by her expression.

“What?” he asked.

“Nothing,” she replied.


A P Charman writes fiction for adults and children and lives in Surrey, England with his wife and daughter.


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BECOMING • by A P Charman, 3.8 out of 5 based on 83 ratings
Posted on June 5, 2009 in Inspirational, Stories
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  • Margie

    :~)

  • Nick Yeo

    Genre defying.

    Even better than Message in a Bottle (http://www.everydayfiction.com/message-in-a-bottle-by-a-p-charman/)

  • João Ventura

    Very good! Congratulations.

  • http://conversationsfromlandsedge.blogspot.com/ Alan W. Davidson

    Excellent and thought provoking. It’s full of great lines but my favourite is “…the world in front of her seemed to shine, to twinkle like a moonlit lake, and a feeling bloomed through her body like an ecstasy of existence…”

    As Nick suggested, I read back on Message in a Bottle in the EDF archives and enjoyed that as well. Great work!

  • http://www.writewords.org.uk/oonah/ Oonah V Joslin

    The first part was a wonderful exposition on the effects of fame and I liked the way the Josie came to terms with it – something of the saint about her I’d say. :)

  • R.A.S.

    Beautifully done!!

  • http://www.silencingthebell.blogspot.com Martine Frampton

    My favourite so far.It made me smile.

  • http://teenangel.netfirms.com Jim Hartley

    I liked the story … up to the point where the halo disappeared. I found the ending very disappointing, it wandered off into some sort of psycho-babble. “What a miracle that there is anything at all!” … what the Hell does that mean? No, I did **NOT** like the way it ended.

  • http://patriciahale.blogspot.com Patricia J. Hale

    Perfect inspirational flash.

  • http://isthisutopia.blogspot.com/ Tracie W.

    Loved it! Marvelous. I wouldn’t say “genre defying,” although Nick clearly means that as a compliment. It’s reminiscent of the Garcia-Marquez story, “A Very Old Man with Enormous Wings.” Magical Realism, which I adore.

  • http://adladspad.wordpress.com/ Ad Lad

    Liked the premise. Great idea, and an interesting analysis of the effect, but it really did feel like an analysis with all that exposition.

    I wonder if you’re trying to pack too much in. This could easily be a short story.

    I didn’t enjoy the resolution either. I didn’t buy angel girl’s epiphany

  • http://www.russheitz.com Russ Heitz

    Fresh, interesting, and well-rounded.

  • Bob

    A lot of exposition spent on the first day, much of which added no more insight to her situation than what followed; then we ripped through the rest of her life in a hurry. That is to say, the pace seemed a bit uneven.

    Agree with Jim and Ad Lad; the conclusion seemed a bit forced, and very hastily tossed in there, especially after the lengthy discourse on the beginning of her condition.

    And, yeah, the Zenlike realization that everything is a miracle / all of it is a miracle / miracles are miracles was not much of a payoff.

  • J.C. Towler

    This story made me think.

    It was interesting that Josie took the halo at face value; she never ascribes any significance to it other than it is a miracle. I think she was probably a true believer and the halo didn’t affect her as much as it did others because she didn’t need any “proof” to vouch for her faith. It would be like everyone running about all excited because one person pointed out water is wet. Well, duh.

    The story made me think about how I would react if something that this happened in real life. And if the goal of a successful story is to make an emotional connection to the reader, than this one succeeded.

    –John

  • http://allotropiclucubrations.blogspot.com Walt Giersbach

    A lovely story, regardless of the too-quick ending and lack of resolution about what the halo is. I’d refer you to “The Boy with the Green Hair,” an American 1940s movie of a boy whose hair suddenly turns green–and becomes a catalyst for everyone’s bitterness and bias to erupt.

  • Andy Charman

    A small point, but the halo did not disappear. It is a source of light and, as such, does not cast a shadow. That is what triggers the epiphany. Perhaps that’s getting too subtle…

    Andy XX

  • Roberta SchulbergGoro

    No wonder she lost her halo. She should have replied to her husband with, “Everything! No, I don’t mean only you.”

  • Roberta SchulbergGoro

    But the story description: “there was a range of fine brilliant lights, increasing in length from the shortest by her ears to the tallest over the crown of her head” seems to be describing a queen’s crown, not a halo. Could it be she lost her crown sitting on the hillside when she found the ubiquitous hallow, but lost it again in not sharing it with her husband?

  • Roberta SchulbergGoro

    I meant lost the hallow again.

  • Tyrean

    liked it just as it was. perfect!

  • Edward Caputo

    Phenomenal! First line was a perfect hook, and kept me till the end (which I thought fit perfectly). Big 5.

  • Rob

    A very nicely done piece.

  • http://www.erinmkinch.com Erin

    I really enjoyed this story. Well written, and it stands alone as a story, but also offers great commentary on the world at large.

    While I don’t think it was needed for the story, I long to know why she was given that halo. That shows how engaged I was in her story. :-)

  • Sharon

    Loved it. Not sure that I completely understand it but I’m pretty certain that it will stay with me and I’ll be giving it a bit more thought.

  • Gail Mary

    Hooked me. Story development was wonderful. The response of all around her was a tad cynical, but believable. The ending was a bit disappointing that the halo’s disappearance seemed more significant than its appearance???

  • Amy Corbin

    I really liked it. If it makes me smile and think, well that’s gotta be a good thing, right?

  • http://areallynicemurder.blogspot.com/ Mary B.

    My favorite part was that her husband didn’t notice.

  • http://Itsnutsoutthere.Blogspot.Com Jerry Constantino

    Really nice story nicely told. Deserves big number. Jerry

  • Paul Freeman

    I enjoyed this a lot – apart from the resolution.

    Firstly, would the halo be visible on her shadow? And secondly, how come hubby didn’t notice the sudden absence of the halo?

  • Celeste

    Really terrific. Read it off my phone screen stuck in an airport and it cheered up my morning. Well done, Andy.

  • Roberta SchulbergGoro

    Mary B. – I agree with you. All the more reason she should have shared the hallow with her husband.

  • Jen

    Aw! What a nice ending! At first I thought this was a straight up comedy and it had me in stitches and then I felt bad for her with the gulf it created between her and other people but then you ended it so wonderfully, it was just nice.

  • abhi

    Brilliant! The concept is both simple and extremely deep! I loved it that the narrative style was so down to earth…and that the ending was truly spiritual! Two thumbs up!!

  • ca

    Reminds me very much of Imogene’s Antlers by David Small.
    Too bad that people misunderstood the ending, that the halo didn’t disappear.

  • Gary

    Loved it!

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